PepsiCo has entered into a pilot program to use the new technology. PepsiCo has entered into a pilot program to use the new technology. PepsiCo has entered into a pilot program to use the new technology. (Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

New way to pasteurize drinks is 73% more efficient

And it's not just your milk that will benefit. Juices, soda and beer can also use the UV light process.

Milk is the beverage most commonly associated with pasteurization, the 150-year-old process invented by French microbiologist Louis Pasteur to destroy bacteria in food with heat. But it may surprise many people that it’s actually used on most of the drinks we buy, from grape juice to soda to beer. Some 117 billion drinks are pasteurized globally each year.

All of this pasteurization requires massive amounts of energy. Now a startup from Israel called AseptoRay has come up with an eco-friendly way to pasteurize drinks without using heat. Not only will it save energy, but it will also retain more vitamins and taste. They’re already running pilot systems at PepsiCo’s development center in Chicago and at a large juice manufacturing plant in Spain.

Traditional pasteurization involves heating drinks – or canned foods like tomatoes and even eggs – to a very high temperature to eliminate harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli and prevent food-borne illnesses. The FDA says most fruit and vegetable juices sold in stores are pasteurized, and warns of the risks of drinking non-pasteurized beverages.

But while traditional pasteurization makes beverages and foods safer, it also kills beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. Not to mention it can damage vitamins and minerals, as well as affect taste.

According to Dr. Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist in Nashville, pasteurization processes hotter than 161 degrees makes milk more difficult to digest and can lead to inflammatory bowel disease and lactose intolerance.

Instead of heat, AseptoRay’s process uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria in liquids. It's a process the company says cuts energy costs by 73% and also keeps vitamins and flavors intact. The energy savings come because AseptoRay’s solution uses ambient temperatures.

“The biggest advantage of heat-free pasteurization is that it doesn’t compromise the original flavor or destroy its vitamins," said AseptoRay's Motti Koren, a graduate of the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel. "The method saves on energy but mostly it preserves the taste and value of the product."

UV-ray pasteurization is already used in the bottled water industry, but UV light can’t penetrate colored and opaque liquids. AseptoRay’s technological breakthrough has been to figure out how to use UV-ray pasteurization with non-transparent beverages.

AseptoRay is a subsidiary of MGT Industries, a 47-year-old company that designs food containers. They've been operating dairy companies in Africa for some time and saw a need for a new way of pasteurizing beverages.

Last year in San Francisco, AseptoRay won the Clean Tech Open Global Ideas competition in San Francisco for startups in their category. Earlier this month, they showed off the technology at an industry conference in Chicago. The company says its technology can easily be incorporated into any manufacturing line, and predict that 2017 will be a big year for growth.

Canada and the U.S. are expected to be major export markets because the system has already received regulatory agency approval here.

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